Live TV delivered by linear pay TV services continues to decline as a dominant "default source" for video watching in the U.S., with Netflix nipping at its heels.
But what surprised us about the latest video usage data report from Hub Entertainment Research is how high Hulu places in a ranking of "default sources" for American TV watching -- what is the first source viewers turn to when they fire up the ol' flat screen?
Live traditional pay TV still ranks No. 1, with 28% of the 1,600 U.S. adult TV watchers polled by Hub in August reporting it as their default source. Netflix ranks second at 23%, but it has largely stagnated in that position, Hub said. The digital video recorder still ranks third at 8%.
Hulu ranks fourth at 6%, ahead of not only Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO Max, but also viewing via over-the-air antenna and vMVPDs.
As Hub elegantly shows, live pay TV viewing has declined markedly as a go-to viewing source, with nearly half the market reporting it as its default as recently as 2016.
Netflix, meanwhile, has only increased its share from about 15% to 23% over that span.
Virtual pay TV viewing is also stagnating -- even as live TV from linear pay TV sources has declined from 34% of the market listing it as its default source in 2019 to a current level of 28%, Hub's survey share listing vMVPDs as its default source has held steady at only around 5%.
Of course, as is usually the case in any analysis of video consumption, age is a huge factor.
Only 8% of adults 55 and older list Netflix as their default viewing source vs. 38% for those age 18-34.
But 50% of adults 55-plus list live linear pay TV as their default source vs. only 12% for 18-34-year olds.
Finally, live linear pay TV remains the most "essential" viewing source for those polled in Hub's "Decoding the Default" reports, with 37% of those polled saying it would be the last service they cancelled.
“At a time when the typical TV consumer uses an average of 7.4 different sources of TV content, simple penetration of a service in the marketplace is no longer a reliable measure of long term service success,” said Peter Fondulas, Principal at Hub and co-author of the report. “A much better predictor is how much consumers engage with each service they have — and in particular, which they consider their TV viewing home base.”
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!
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